Dining Out with Food Allergies

Filed under: Health Tips

Group Of Friends Enjoying Meal In RestaurantFor the typical couple, family, or group of friends, choosing a restaurant can range from a quick decision to an hours-long ordeal. If you’ve ever driven around for what seems like hours, debating the merits and drawbacks of multiple restaurants, you know exactly what we mean!

When you add in food allergies to the mix, the debate takes on a whole new level of importance. No longer are you deciding between types of cuisine or quality of service; you’re watching out for your health, too. If you suffer from food allergies, keep these tips in mind as you look for a suitable restaurant.

Consider hidden ingredients. If you suffer from a gluten intolerance, for example, avoiding dishes containing bread or traditional pasta can seem obvious. But gluten might lurk, in small amounts, in dressings, sauces, and so on.

Learn alternate names for your allergens. Often, allergens are listed on a food’s label, but you won’t know that if the manufacturer uses a less-common name. For example, those with milk allergies used to overlook “casein” in food labels, even though it’s simply another name for milk protein. That particular issue was fixed by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which requires food manufacturers to clearly label product ingredients relating to the eight most common food allergies.

That law won’t help you, though, if you suffer from a less common allergy. So the responsibility for learning all of the different names for your allergen rests upon you. If you know which ingredients to avoid, it’s easier to communicate with waiters and chefs about your condition.

Talk to your waiter. Explain your food allergy to your waiter, and ask him or her to double-check with the chef before ordering a particular dish. This is when that list of allergen ingredients will come in handy. It can help if you keep the list on a handy note card.

Cross-contamination is a big issue in restaurants, particularly for people who are allergic to gluten, soy, dairy, and corn. So even if you’re sure a dish doesn’t contain your allergen, you should still communicate with your waiter about your allergy, so that he can notify the chef.

Learn your safe zones. You will find that some restaurants are more friendly to your needs than others. Some will even list common allergens on the menu, and encourage communication between customers and their chef. If your allergy is particularly severe, it can help to simply limit your dining excursions to these restaurants. Larger, more established restaurants are generally more accommodating, and chain restaurants often enforce tighter controls on their ingredients.

Bring your medication with you. Just in case of a mixup, it’s important to keep medications like epinephrin or antihistamines on hand at all times.

Of course, there’s always the option of having a gourmet meal prepared by a chef in your own home! At The Peaceful Plate, we specialize in serving clients with a variety of special food needs, such as allergies. After preparing your dishes, we leave you with a clean kitchen, so that you can enjoy the dining-out experience at home. Give us a call at (951) 852-5765 and see just how easy it can be to enjoy professionally prepared meals at home.